Electric car sales are on the up — but is coronavirus responsible?

Lockdowns across Europe to curb the coronavirus pandemic drastically changed how we move around the world. Work-from-home restrictions, furlough schemes, and job losses left millions of cars gathering dust in driveways.

It is not surprising that the demand for new cars plummeted. In Germany – Europe’s largest car market – new car registrations in the first half of 2020 declined by 35% compared to the same period in 2019, and during the height of restrictions (April), sales slumped a historic 61%. Sales for 2020 across the rest of Europe’s largest car markets in the first half of 2020 performed even worse: Spain (-51%), UK (-49%), Italy (-46%), and France (39%).

But one segment of the car market is still growing. Electric vehicle (EV) sales, both full battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in-hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) have bucked the trend, not only in terms of their market share, but also in absolute terms. In Germany, EV sales from January to June increased from 47,584 in 2019 to 93,848 in 2020, supported by particularly strong PHEV growth.

[Read: 5 reasons why autonomous cars still aren’t on our roads]

This is an incredible performance, given the current economic and public health situation. Similar trends are evident across Europe with France, for example, seeing an even higher shift to EVs in 2020.

Graph showing recent rise in electric vehicle sales in Germany.